The Government is now engaged at the highest level on the issue of the French boycott of Scottish fish exports, says the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA).
Since last week, French fisheries association and boat owners have been calling on retail outlets there to stop buying what they have called “cheap imported fish” from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.
They claim that hundreds of tonnes of whitefish are flooding the French market, meaning the fishing and seafood industry is not getting a chance to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, a crisis that has had a severe impact on fishing right across Europe.
The fishing industry in Scotland, which has been also been hit by COVID-19, has seen great numbers of their fleet tied-up in harbour since March because of poor fish prices and the lack of markets for their catch, whilst French fishing vessels have remained operating in UK waters and landing into ports like Peterhead and Scrabster.
Two 40 metre French pair-trawlers are due to land in Peterhead today, where their catches will be offloaded onto French lorries and transported directly to the markets in France.
The SWFPA say “People who argue that French retailers are simply urging consumers to buy local miss the point – much of the catch comes from our waters in the North Sea!”
Scenes like this have annoyed the Scottish industry, and especially when boat owners who have returned from fishing trips are being told by French buyers that their fish is not required on the market there. With current prices for fish product at rock bottom many in the Scottish fishing industry fear they will be driven out of business.
On Thursday last, the Scottish Seafood Association (SSA) urged the Scottish & UK governments to intervene in the situation and not let it continue “unchallenged” and it looks like the Government has heard that request.
The SWFPA has reported that the “Government now fully engaged at the highest level on the issue of French boycott of imported fish from Scotland – we hope for and look forward to a sensible outcome.
“Every economy in the world is trying to support markets where they can to ensure there isn’t a complete collapse in economic activity. Yet some French retailers think it is acceptable to boycott produce, with the result that prices for Scottish fish have slumped. Ridiculous behaviour at this time of global crisis.
“We are urging those with responsibilities for fishing and trade in the UK and Scottish governments to challenge their French counterparts to bring about a speedy end to what is a clear boycott of Scottish fish by some French retailers encouraged by that country’s fleet.
“This is the toughest period skippers and crew have ever known, with the collapse of some markets and severe reduction of demand from others forcing many boats to tie up. That’s why it is time to be resolute in the defence of our interests while working together to ensure common sense prevails.”